19th Century Typographic History

Hi typophiles! I am doing a massive history paper on typography during the 19th century. There was a lot of innovation in the typographic in this period due to the new demand and ability of the industrial revolution, including the creation of the first slab serif and sans serif fonts.
Anyway, I have mostly been using textbooks for my research, but I have been unable to find primary sources. The only "primary sources" I can find are books of fonts released by type foundries during the era. I am not finding anything that I can really quote and include in my essay like I typical would in a history report. I could really use some help with this primary source dilemma. Please let me know if you have any ideas of types of things that I could use as primary sources or if you know of anything in particular. (I did find this great website called typeheritage.com, but the website mysteriously went down last night and now I feel stranded without sources...)
Thank you!

donshottype's picture

The internet is useful, but inappropriate for a project like this.
Try a university library, go to the stacks, browse the shelves in the region of Z246 to Z250. Use the catalogue. Search names like Clouse, who wrote among other things, a history of the McKellar foundry and a book on artistic printing. Search Loy, who wrote biographies of the punch-cutters who cut the fonts, which are collected in a book. Search Nicolete Gray who wrote a significant book on 19th century ornamented typefaces.
Not much in the way of "primary" sources from the 19th century. Type-making was a craft for artisans rather than an interest of the chattering class. But many interesting fonts were patented. The patents are online via Google and the U.S. Patent Office.

Nick Shinn's picture

Updike and Reed were 19th century/early 20th century type historians—and thus biased against the innovations you mentioned, which they ignored.


donshottype's picture

Good point Nick.
Michael , for negative views on 19th century type design read almost anything by Theodore Low De Vinne http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Low_De_Vinne and Linn Boyd Benton http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linn_Boyd_Benton Linn Boyd Benton invented many of the most important type founding technologies of the late 19th century. Don't confuse him with his son, Morris Fuller Benton who was very influential in the eradication of 19th century typefaces.
An essential aspect of your paper should be an understanding of the philosophical differences between 19th and 20th century typefaces. Contrast and compare the tremendous range of 19th century typefaces -- which range from exuberant and ornate to wispy and aesthetic -- to post 19th century industrial machine age standardization [Benton etc.]. Unless you are writing a book, you should probably do best to avoid being sidetracked into long discussion of other post 19th century design movements such as neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau etc. Stick to how type was designed and made in the 19th century and provide some perspective on how it differs from later. Focus=success.
OK enough free tutorial. You have plenty from Nick and myself to write a good paper.

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